When should I get my child their first walker shoes?
Picking the first walker shoes for your little one can be daunting. There’s conflicting advice about when to buy baby’s first shoes and what type of shoe. Do you get first walking shoes to encourage them to walk, when they start walking, or once they’re confident? And what are the key elements of a good first walker shoe?
FOOT DEVELOPMENT IN TODDLERS
Let’s start out talking about your toddler’s feet. A child will start walking anywhere between 9 and 20 months, developing at their own pace. When they begin walking, the muscles of their feet are suddenly being used in a vastly different way, and they are working hard to strengthen those muscles.
When you think about it, your little one only discovered their feet not that long ago – you know, the foot grabbing and sucking phase? Their feet had been used first for kicking, then progressed to being used to help propel them when rolling, crawling, and standing.
The early days of walking are when a child needs to be able to properly experience and adjust to new foot sensation, load-bearing, muscle movement, and strengthening. Your child is discovering how it feels to walk and developing that intuition about how their muscles should respond to walking on different and uneven surfaces.
Essentially, they are completely retraining their muscles and their brain, which is a pretty epic undertaking when you think about it!
When to buy baby’s first walking shoes
With your little one working hard at retraining their feet, it’s best not to go all gung-ho right away. They should be allowed to be barefoot as much as possible.
That said, there are places you’ll take your toddler where you don’t want them running around barefoot – safety is paramount, after all!
In those early days of walking, it’s essential to protect your child’s foot with a pre-walker shoe. A pre-walker is soft-soled, which allows the child to flex their muscles and feel the same sensations as when they are barefoot.
How long should babies wear soft-soled shoes?
Once your toddler is taking ten steps or more at a time, with confidence, it’s time to take a look at walker shoes. But be wary of grabbing the shiniest, cutest pair you see, there are some important support features that your child’s first walker shoes needs.
Baby first walking shoes – Support features to consider
Soft and Flexible Soles
Your toddler may be pretty confident, but the fact of the matter is they’re still developing and strengthening those muscles. They need to be able to have control of their foot movement to develop the right responses to changing surfaces. Where the soft soles of pre-walkers are made of fabric, the soft soles of quality pre-walker shoes are primarily made of soft and flexible rubber.
It’s not just the sole that needs to be flexible. Your little one needs control of their entire foot and ankle, so the walker shoe needs to have relatively unrestrictive flexibility to allow them control of movement. Soft and flexible materials also equate to comfort, which will encourage your child to enjoy their newfound skill.
While you don’t want to restrict movement, there still needs to be support in the shoe. Your toddler’s feet are adjusting to load-bearing as well as beginning to develop arches. Make sure the design of the shoe you choose provides stability as well as arch support.
DECISIONS MADE WITH DEVELOPMENT
The important thing is not to stress or rush. Your baby will develop at their own pace, so allow them to guide you in deciding when it is time for a proper first walker shoe. Those early days of walking are supposed to be a happy experience!
Need a little more guidance? You can book a fitting at the Little Treads fitting suite or virtually or simply send us an email and our team can provide expert advice on first walker shoes for your baby.